Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Galaxies for study

Galaxies M77 and NGC 105
Image Credit & Copyright: Dieter Willasch (Astro-Cabinet)
Click here for the larger original image by Dieter Willasch in APOD site to admire this rare simultaneous view of a galaxy face on and another in sharp profile. What better way to try to learn about these enormous star islands then to see them positioned like this in the space?

Today we are really spoiled by all this educational and beautiful imagery produced by professional astronomers opening in front of our eyes the marvelous Cosmos governed by the invisible laws of Nature. For some these Laws are Anonymous, for others they reflect the wisdom of God of Israel who claims to have made everything, including you and me.

What a sight!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Teaching globular star cluster

A picture is worth thousand words!

How else would you teach Astronomy hobbyist important facts about globular star clusters in less than five minutes giving them a strong visual memory to aid in comprehending the wealth of information?

The APOD image uses web technology to seamlessly combine two different shades of red on a glorious close-up of M71. The student only needs to move the mouse over the photo to see by himself or herself what space dust can do to light travelling through it.

True, the picture needs words in order to pass the message. But these words do not hang in empty space but are directly associated with the photo of M71. It is much easier to remember the facts when looking at the cluster while reading about it.

The main lesson from this effective teaching is better understanding of Color-Magnitude diagram which explains why the visible light arriving from a star needs adjustments before its real magnitude can be accurately defined.

Friday, November 28, 2014

This is it and nothing else

Pacman nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh
Look at the photo in APOD site to really appreciate the amazing sharpness and full hues of colors of this magnificent narrow/band filtered iamge by astrophotographer Martin Pugh.

My Space Theology point is here and elsewhere that this is it

This is the reality of divine Creation and when scientists study Universe from its smallest known building blocks and Planck seconds to such light years large nebulas as seen in this magnificent photo: they are all studying the handwork of God of Israel.

This is the reality that we humans are able to study with our mathematical abilities, the instruments engineers build and refine, the theories of Cosmology or Particle Physics. This and not some hidden "more important" divine reality that we should see by faith and include into making and teaching science in order to be satisfied that God exists.

When we look at reality through the eyes of faith we get a different view of reality than viewing reality in disbelief and rejection of God. But here exactly is the trap: people of religion, believers, tend to fall to the temptation of trying to make God's hand visible by digging somewhere under the reality in order to show to the unbelieving world that look here and you can see the divine reality, wisdom, design and planning.

No. This is it and nothing else under, above, beside it.

It is actually rather simple. You may praise the Lord for your eyesight, for the very useful thumbs, if they are still there in your left and right hands, for ballet dancers or footballers feet. Or you may not praise the Lord for anything. The eye, thumb, and foot are the reality of Creation. Science discovers amazing facts and useful details about God's handiwork in human body. But the whole, how everything in it fits together in harmony and how it functions even when severely disabled, remains a reality that man either thanks God for it or not.

This is it and no one can escape it.

No matter what the astronomer believes or does not believe and no matter whether or not the astrophysicist gives glory to the Creator, the highest level of scientific work is still and remains research on what God of Israel has made and the research reflects the deep thinking of the One, who speaks to all humanity through the Jewish people and their sacred books, Old and New Testament of the Bible. The Word of God. So we believe.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tear in Andromeda's spiral

Andromeda, Spiral Galaxy M81
Image: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope;
Processing & Copyright: Roberto Colombari & Robert Gendler
If you look at the outer spiral above the galactic center you clearly see a tear in this magnificent island of stars. Astronomers explain it as the result of a galactic collision where a smaller galaxy in the Local Group caused the break of the spiral.

Study of space depends on what we humans can see at various wavelengths of light using our optical and other instruments. Hubble Space Telescope has raised the level of imagery and information the photos reveal to observes to an entirely new level.

For other details in this portrait of Andromeda check the explanation given for this photo in the APOD site.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Philae has landed

Philae lander.
Image: European Space Agency ESA

Congratulations ESA ... and humanity!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fetus and Cosmos

Human fetus and placenta. 3 months old
image wikimedia

Modern sciences can describe in great detail with the help of powerful electron microscopes, systematic observation and even pathological examination the evolution of a human fetus from the moment of conception to the birth of a little boy or girl.

This descriptive approach is very efficient and helps humanity in fighting fetus deformation, miscarriages, infertility of one or both of the parents and in guaranteeing optimal growth environment for the fetus.

However, while knowing much about the how science is unable to answer the question why all this happens in mother's womb during those nine months of pregnancy.

The Biblical writer had no knowledge of the microbiological cellular processes modern medical research excels in studying and exposing. But with the Psalmist we can still sincerely share his poetic wonderment of the depth of God's creative powers and wisdom as seen in the scientific study of His handiwork, evolution of the human embryo.
For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:13 - 14 ESV

Title card of the Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey TV series 2014
National Geographic
Likewise, modern sciences can describe in great detail with the help of powerful telescopes, systematic observation, theoretical physics and high mathematics the evolution of Cosmos from the moment of its known beginning to the Universe in which we live today.

This descriptive approach is very effective and besides increasing our knowledge and answering fundamental questions about reality it helps humanity in numerous ways to better survive on this planet and to use its resources for maximum benefit. (Of course, space sciences have a significant role also in self-defense of the nations on Earth against the aggression of other nations.)

However, while knowing much about the how science is unable to answer the question why all this happens from nothing to the wonderful world full of complex life of which our brains are integral part.*

The Biblical writer had no knowledge of the macrocosm or the vastness of deep space we have only recently learned to know using constantly improving scientific observation instruments and advanced methods of space exploration. But with the Psalmist we can still sincerely share his poetic wonderment of the depth of God's creative powers and wisdom as seen in the scientific study of His handiwork, evolution of the Cosmos.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you..
Psalm 139:17 - 18 ESV
Why it is so difficult to give glory to God of Israel?

Is it because of the some times violently obscurantist behavior of His believers?

* "It just happened" does not count to me as a scientific, theological or philosophical answer but rather just an empty observation of what is.

Monday, November 10, 2014

WYSIWG - Cat's Eye Nebula

Cat's Eye Nebula. Sharpened Hubble image.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get - is only part of the picture.

IDWIL - It Depends on Who Is Looking!

Galileo Galilei made his own telescope fitting his eye sight. The men of church who dared to look at the same optical instrument did not necessarily see what he did because the lenses made by Galileo may have not given them clear view. Definitely, their sight was also affected by strong brain waves of how the world must look like according to the Bible and true religion.

There probably were many who made those simple telescopes invented at the beginning of the 17th century in Netherlands. But they did not understand what they saw.

The spectacular photograph from the wonderful APOD page is Astrophotography in all its glory. It gives today's astronomers a previously unimaginable amount of detailed information thanks to the astronomically expensive instrument, the Hubble space telescope.

Light is what we have and in this way scientists are making the most of it, enhancing color shades, sharpening details, focusing and pasting images over each other. The techniques are manifold.

Imagine, if a man or woman with Galileo's open eyes and open mind would have a chance to look at that image!

WYSIWYG indeed, with the note of IDWIL.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Everything out of nothing

The Galaxy in Orion's belt.
One of the great cosmic ideas in the movie Men in Black

This is a Space Theology bookmark to Robert Adler's BBC Earth article
  Why is there something rather than nothing?

The article explains modern cosmological theories in clear and interesting way to the larger public and raises jolly teasing questions about nothing and everything. The focus is especially on the work of Andrei Linde at Stanford University.

Robert Adler writes "At this point, making a universe looks almost easy".

Well... let's go ahead and try to play God!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Theologically significant view on Earth from a vantage point

Photo taken October 28 2014 from Chang'e 5-T1 spacecraft
Image Credit: Chinese National Space AdministrationXinhuanet
The Chinese robotic spacecraft has taken a truly iconic image and I am grateful to the professional astronomers in APOD for noticing it and calling our attention to the magnificent point of view.

As for Astrotheology:

God the Creator our Heavenly Father
The very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, writes that in the beginning God created heaven and earth.

This verse implies that either God of Israel has created everything, including Earth, Sun, Moon, the entire Universe in which you and me exit or He has created nothing.

That is a fairly simple matter. A believer in One God, may he or she be a Jew, Christian or Muslim, accepts the Biblical revelation as a source of truthful information about how everything came into existence. A non-believer rejects that revelation and looks for other less religious answers in the ultimately mathematical Laws of the Nature.

So what about Jesus Christ?
The majestic image raises another matter that is significantly more complex.  Already from the little distance of one light second that separates moon from Earth, the relative size of our planet is considerably diminished. Take a few light minutes more distance and you can hardly see the Blue Marble. Anyone further away than that must use highly sophisticated observation methods in order to know that there are planets orbiting the Sun.

As long as we Christians have lived in the Geocentric world of old so easily understood and observable to us humans, there has been no problem calling Him the Lord.

But any Christian immersed into the depths and distances of outer space must ask himself or herself what it means that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in shall be saved (John 3:16)

What world? Did Jesus atone for the sins of the entire Universe on this little distant planet in one of the wings of the Milky Way?

Some Christians are so deep into the Geocentric world even they know the facts of modern Cosmology that they see Cosmic Christ on the cross. We have been talking about this matter in many previous blog texts.

Personally, I have learned from the Church and believed that Jesus Christ is totally human, He is thus Le Petite Prince who was born as a human - not as a humanoid - and whom Father has made the King of the Kings and the Lord of the Lords. On this planet. In the same time, Jesus Christ is totally divine and thus through Him the entire Cosmos and everything that is in it has been created.

Go figure...

Bible is a Geocentric, Anthropocentric and Christ-centric collection of books. And yet, it contains matters that reach beyond those limits talking about a God who calls each and every star in the Universe by name.

Go figure...

Monday, October 27, 2014

About Stephen Hawking and his ilk

Simulation of how a black hole might look.
For a compact explanation of this magnificent image see the APOD page

Stephen Hawking repeatedly saying that God does not exist does not require extensive academic studies of most demanding branches of modern Sciences such as, for example, Particle Physics, higher Mathematics, Astrophysics, Nuclear physics, Cosmology or Astronomy in general.

It is quite easy to say so without any higher education. In fact, we know that there were people in pre-scientific era who said so over two thousand years ago:

   The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
   Psalm 14:1

On the other hand, what does require extensive academic studies of the most demanding branches of modern Sciences such as, for example, Particle Physics, higher Mathematics, Astrophysics, Nuclear physics, Cosmology or Astronomy in general, is to describe God's work. For example, to discover and understand the weak radiation from a black hole, what is at the root of gravity or what exactly is the time-space continuum.

It is a hell of a job trying to figure out how the Universe works and especially how primitive and complex life has evolved on planet Earth creating wonders of Nature such as Stephen Hawking with his mind blowing ideas or that lucky combination of mutations called Daniel C. Dennett, who can see.

Formula 1 starting position
It is quite simple, really.

Statements about no God by professor Hawking and his ilk are not the results of the race, they are their starting position.

If the starting position is to reject any notion of God the Creator and to ignore what the God of Israel Himself tells about the Universe, there are not many alternatives left to the deep question Why? Is the meaning of life really 42?

If there is no Creator obviously the existing Universe and we living in it must the product of some anonymous processes guided by the Laws of Nature. Automation with no guiding thinking, design or particular purpose. There also must be some sort of engine that drives life against the Laws of Thermodynamics we have learned to respect ever since the Berlin School began to write about them. Let us call it Evolution, the Almighty genius of life!

It exists
If God does not exist we still exist, stupid. For an atheist that existence is a given fact and explains everything to a rational man. Look around, touch that stone, it is there. It is a fact. Saying anything religious about it is pure nonsense and a sickness that must be erased from humanity.

I am
Should our starting position in the race for knowledge and understanding rest in the God of Israel, things get very personal.

For His name is not "it exists" but "I am". (in Hebrew JHVH) 

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Exodus 3:14

Suddenly we have the freedom of scientific exploration and research and Philosophy and Religion in a Cosmos, that is ultimately One and ultimately Personal.

Of course we all know that the Jewish guy from God's chosen people, Albert Einstein, had difficulty with the concept of a personal God and even more so with His children. But he did talk about Him and did not just ignore the only real God there is.

So what's the difference
The difference between the foolish claim of human heart that there is no God and the listening to the God of Israel talking about things is in this personality of things that lacks from disbelief. Ii is in the deepest understanding of humanity in the Universe as reflecting its Maker that atheistic humanism lacks. 

Deep down, a scientist figuring out God's works frequently praises Him for what he or she discovers and sees the meaning of One. It poses a healthy dose of humility on the brilliant human mind, made almost divine.


When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?Psalm 8:3 - 4

 ותחסרהו מעט מאלהים וכבוד והדר תעטרהו 5: 8

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Steven Dick and Cosmo-theology

Milky Way, Black Rock Desert, Nevada USA
image wikimedia

Robert Lawrence Kuhn said in a PSB TV discussion 2010 the following
NASA chief historian Steven Dick questions the consistency of the Christian salvation plan if there are sentient beings on other planets. The salvation of humans on Earth depends, according to traditional doctrine, on Jesus’ death and resurrection, but what about those beings on other planets? Does his death on earth save them?

“If the answer is ‘No,’” says Dick, “then you have a scenario of a planet-hopping savior, which was not kindly looked upon by, say, theologians in the Middle Ages.”

Dick’s solution is a radical rethinking of what is meant by “theology.” He argues for what he calls a “cosmo-theology,” meaning “we need to take into account what we know about the universe, including whether or not there are extraterrestrials.” This includes the fact that “physically, the earth is not at the center of the universe” and the likely fact that, in Dick’s opinion, “biologically, human beings are not at the center of the universe either.” He suggests that there are other, far more advanced intelligent life forms. “We are most likely not at the top of the great chain of beings,” he says.

Dick’s cosmo-theology, which would be energized by extraterrestrial, or ET, intelligences, is hardly “theology” in any traditional sense. God is nowhere to be found. Nor are humans very much important. I’d be thrilled to know such “new truth,” though deeply disappointed, I’d admit, that God were no more.
Kuhn Closer to Truth

A catholic view
In a blog written July 24, 2014 Mark Strauss refers to these ideas and continues the discussion
How would the world's religions react to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence? There is, of course, no single answer. But for Christians who believe in the redemption of humanity through a singular event—the Incarnation of God through Christ—the question poses an especially complex dilemma.

To appreciate the conundrum, a good place to start is with the words of Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer and current director of the Vatican Observatory, who suggested in an interview that the possibility of "brother extraterrestrials" poses no problem for Catholic theology. "As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God," Funes told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. "This does not conflict with our faith because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God."

But, L'Osservatore Romano asked, what if these beings were sinners?

"Jesus became man once and for all," Funes responded. "The Incarnation is a single and unique event. So I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings."
Strauss How Would Christianity Deal with Extraterrestrial life
Both articles give many additional links that are very much worth clicking.

Basic problem: ignoring the history of human learning
Steven Dick hits the nail head on by referring to the change in world view.  For there is a basic problem in many theological discussions, including the two articles referred above, in which the progress of humanity and our evolving knowledge about the space is not taken enough into consideration.

For the Bible is a truly old book. It was written in Ancient Near East and classical Roman imperium where it was taken by granted by all that Earth is the center of all existence. Sun and moon, the five visible planets and those little dots of light called stars move in mysterious ways in Heaven above Earth.

By rolling back to the geocentric world view that preceded the rather recent impact of the observations of Nicolaus Copernicus and his colleagues we can understand the following verses in the Book of Revelations
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
Rev. 6:12-13 KJV
Trying to force the prophecy into modern cosmology would twist both the genuine message of the Book of Revelations and the reality of God's creation.

The basic collection of holy books in the Judeo-Christian tradition represents an old worldview. Today, the geocentric as well as the heliocentric and Milky Way -centric worldviews have been smothered into pieces by the continuous flow of new information discovered about God's wonderful creation.

Monday, October 13, 2014

That Eye in the Sky - Helix Nebula

Helix Nebula. Hubble telescope and Blanco telescope, Chile
Another Space Theology bookmark - Helix Nebula - a truly wonderful feast of Astrophotography, genuine piece of art showing God's creation!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

John Polkinghorne about Science and Religion

John Polkinghore photographed in 2007
image wikimedia
The Rev Dr John Charlton Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens' College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.

Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include
The Quantum World (1989),
Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship(2005),
Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007)
Questions of Truth (2009).

The Polkinghorne Reader (edited by Thomas Jay Oord) provides key excerpts from Polkinghorne's most influential books.

He was knighted in 1997 and in 2002 received the £1 million Templeton Prize, awarded for exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension
Read the entire article from Wikipedia

Read on line his article on Physics and Theology

Monday, September 29, 2014

Energizer in Galaxy 3C 75

Two black holes near each other in 3C 75
It is quite difficult for us humans really to internalize the enormous energy sources discovered in deep space. The two merging galaxies known as 3C 75 have been known as a giant radio source. In this remarkable photo, captured radio waves are shown in pink and Röntgen rays emitting from the multimillion degrees hot surrounding gas are shown in blue. (APOD)

The photo is all the more amazing considering that these two galaxies are estimated to be some 300 million light years distance from us. A mere speck in the vast space not really visible to light capturing telescopes.

The two bright spots are the black holes in the hearts of the merging galaxies (black hole is a curious name as the matter around it radiates more brightly than stars!) The centers are estimated to be at 25.000 light years distance from each other. The two are moving together at 1200 kilometers per second the great speed causing the racing trails of radio waves.

This energizer is so enormous that it is truly something in astronomic scale!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Complex organic molecules in interstellar space

BBC news reports this morning
Scientists have found the beginnings of life-bearing chemistry at the centre of the galaxy.

Iso-propyl cyanide has been detected in a star-forming cloud 27,000 light-years from Earth.

Its branched carbon structure is closer to the complex organic molecules of life than any previous finding from interstellar space.

The discovery suggests the building blocks of life may be widespread throughout our galaxy.

Various organic molecules have previously been discovered in interstellar space, but i-propyl cyanide is the first with a branched carbon backbone.

The branched structure is important as it shows that interstellar space could be the origin of more complex branched molecules, such as amino acids, that are necessary for life on Earth.

Dr Arnaud Belloche from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy is lead author of the research, which appears in the journal Science.

"Amino acids on Earth are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are very important for life as we know it. The question in the background is: is there life somewhere else in the galaxy?"

Read the entire article by Michael Eyre in BBC Science

iso-propyl cyanide i-C3H7CN

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mangaliyaan - badhai ho!

Artist's rendering of the MOM Mangaliyaan
image wikimedia

Astronomers around the world are thrilled and glad for the success of India's impossible sounding Mars Orbiter Mission.

India has joined the elite club of countries with space craft that has reached Mars - NASA United States,  ESA Europe and Russia. With the cost of a mere 74 million dollars...

बधाई हो    badhai ho!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Laniakea Supercluster of Galaxies

Laniakea Supercluster of Galaxies
APOD has an excellent clear and compact description of a very complex and amazing structure in space shown in the picture above.
It is not only one of the largest structures known -- it is our home. The just-identified Laniakea Supercluster of galaxies contains thousands of galaxies that includes our Milky Way Galaxy, the Local Group of galaxies, and the entire nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies.

The colossal supercluster is shown in the above computer-generated visualization, where

  • green areas are rich with white-dot galaxies and 
  • white lines indicate motion towards the supercluster center. 
  • An outline of Laniakea is given in orange, while 
  • the blue dot shows our location. 
  • Outside the orange line, galaxies flow into other galatic concentrations. 

The Laniakea Supercluster spans about 500 million light years and contains about 100,000 times the mass of our Milky Way Galaxy. The discoverers of Laniakea gave it a name that means "immense heaven" in Hawaiian.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Astrotheology theme image - Hollow Hill Cave, NZ

Photo from Hollow Hill Cave, New Zeland
image Credit and Copyright Phill Round.
This amazing photo composed and taken by Phill Round iin the Hollow Hill Cave, New Zeland is my current favorite candidate for Astrotheology Theme Image. It shows a wonder of the Universe in a fabulous way that no mere words can describe. Yet, in order to understand the powerful message in this photo a few words are still needed.

No, it is not the Southern Cross and the Coalsack Nebula in the upper left of the image. In fact, the spots of light on the "sky" are not stars at all.
Look up in New Zealand's Hollow Hill Cave and you might think you see a familiar starry sky. And that's exactly what Arachnocampa luminosa are counting on. Captured in this long exposure, the New Zealand glowworms scattered across the cave ceiling give it the inviting and open appearance of a clear, dark night sky filled with stars. Unsuspecting insects fooled into flying too far upwards get trapped in sticky snares the glowworms create and hang down to catch food.
Glowworms imitating night sky?

Quick reactions
There are two Pavlov's reaction to this amazing constellation of glowworms on the ceiling of a dark cave.

1. Die hard evolutionist says "Do not worry about such riddles of Nature. The key to understanding evolution of this species and its subsistence strategy is natural selection and based on this universal principle we will surely figure out now or in the future a feasible theory how a group of worms got the ability to imitate night sky."

2. Die hard creationist says "look, it is impossible that a group of worms would be able to act in this manner creating a composite image of space in the ceiling of the cave to catch food. Some Intelligent Being must be behind all this since otherwise the complex behavior and understanding of geometry by Arachnocampa luminosa cannot be explained meaningfully."

But hey, hold your horses!

Let us for once put aside the first thoughts that rise with our curiosity when admiring the attractive scenery depicted in the photo.

Let us be quiet and contemplate what we see, let us listen to the many ideas that rise to our heads without hurrying to fix it into some man-sized explanation to this truly divine phenomenon.

Let us recite the mysterious wording in the over two thousand years old Hallelujah! Psalm 148 - that leaves so many questions without answers!

Psalm 148
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the Lord.

Indeed, praise the Lord you small creatures!

Thank you to Phill Round for submitting the photo to NASA APOD for us all to admire!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Brian Cox - Saturn'a rings

Simulated Cassini image of the rings of Saturn
image wikipedia

In his charming BBC documentary that takes the viewers to the wonder secrets of the Solar system Professor Brian Cox describes the amazing rings of Saturn. We readily agree with him that they are among the most beautiful and astonishing features in the planets of the solar system.

As a Theologian I paid attention to a small detail in his talking about the structure and origins of these rings. The core idea was that "it is not easy to accept that the rings are result of spontaneous processes, but they are".

This choice of words is veiled reference to a major stream of thinking among Astronomers and Cosmologists following in the footsteps of Stephen Hawking - there is no need for a Creator, the Universe can be understood on the basis of the Laws of Nature and is a spontaneous development.

Spontaneous stands for "by itself" and assuming that specific Laws of Nature, starting from gravity, are in force one can explain the rings of Saturn without referring to a Creator.

I am not sure that my reading of the passing remark by Professor Cox represents his actual views but my interpretation is consistent with the content of this remarkable tour to the Solar system.

Apis mellifera
image wikipedia

Spontaneous honey
We are not dealing with only semantics when we try to explore the implicated theological contents in the expression spontaneous.

I try to make it clearer by using a simple example and without going further with the discussion. May the reader draw conclusions from the example.

Life is much more complex than the Solar system but also when talking about its wonders one could try to make the same case as with the rings of Saturn. We know this and this about the evolution of insects, about the behavior of bees in their nest, the pollination of plants done by them, the production of honey, its chemical components, nutritional value and other scientific facts.

After all that exhausting exploration of the still largely unknown life form called bees we could then say that honey is a spontaneous product of nature.

Do you see my point?

In the Bible the God of Israel claims that He has created everything and maintains life. Honey is something extraordinary special and while it is a product of Nature in the same way the rings of Saturn are a product of Nature, both tell about the deep thinking and majestic glory of God.

To those whose eyes and hearts have been opened by faith to see the hand of God in His marvelous works of Creation.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Astrology: The Age of Aquarius

Age Of Aquarius Lyrics

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in ...

Lyrics from lyrics.net

The line "When the Moon is n the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars" is poetic liberty and not real Astrology. Moon is in the 7th House every night. The perfect alignment of all the planets as seen from Earth took place lin 2000 AD but obviously it did not bring with it the end of the world as we know it.

The Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius is an astrological term denoting either the current or forthcoming astrological age, depending on the method of calculation. Astrologers maintain that an astrological age is a product of the earth's slow precessional rotation and lasts for 2,160 years, on average (1 degree every 72 years. 360 / 12 zodiac signs = 30. 30 * 72 = 2,160). In popular culture in the United States, the Age of Aquarius refers to the advent of the New Age movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

There are various methods of calculating the length of an astrological age.
In sun-sign astrology, the first sign is Aries, followed by Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces, whereupon the cycle returns to Aries and through the zodiacal signs again.

Astrological ages, however, proceed in the opposite direction (retrograde in astronomy). Therefore, the Age of Aquarius follows the Age of Pisces.

Axial precession

Precessional movement of the Earth – the Earth rotates
(white arrows) once a day about its axis of rotation (red);
this axis itself rotates slowly (white circle),
completing a rotation in approximately 26,000 years
In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body's rotational axis. In particular, it refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth's axis of rotation, which, similar to a wobbling top, traces out a pair of cones joined at their apices in a cycle of approximately 26,000 years. The term "precession" typically refers only to this largest part of the motion; other changes in the alignment of Earth's axis – nutationand polar motion – are much smaller in magnitude.

Historical background
Modern astrologists discuss the exact time when the Age of Aquarius begins and what kind of positive impact the positions of Earth, Sun, Moon and planets in the Zodiac will have on humanity. These discussions are definitely modern as they assume rotating planet Earth, two thousand year rhythm of alignment and even axial precession.

Ancient astronomers in all the cultures around the globe understood Earth as the solid immovable center of the Universe over which the heavenly objects made their nightly travels.

The great demarcation point in the history of the astrological ages is around 127 BC when the Greek astronomer-astrologer Hipparchus from observation discovered that the great immovable sphere of fixed stars was not fixed but slowly moving eastwards due to what is now known as precession of the equinoxes. It is possible that some other astronomers before Hipparchus had also noticed the phenomenon but it is Hipparchus who has taken the fame.

This discovery by Hipparchus is not entirely unexpected as Hipparchus is considered to have been the greatest observational astronomer in his time and up until Tycho Brahe in the 16th century AD. What is highly contentious in modern times is the claim by many that observation of the effects of precession of the equinoxes was known well before the time of Hipparchus and his contemporaries in Greece or even Mesopotamia. The academic answer is no – precession of the equinoxes was unknown in earlier times.

Anno Domini
The current Anno Mundi calendar theoretically commenced with the creation of the world based on information in the Old Testament. It was believed that based on the Anno Mundi calendar Jesus was born in the year 5500 (or 5500 years after the world was created) with the year 6000 of the Anno Mundi calendar marking the end of the world. Anno Mundi 6000 (approximately AD 500) was thus equated with the resurrection of Christ and the end of the world.

Since this date had already passed in the time of Dionysius Exiguus, he therefore searched for a new end of the world at a later date. He was heavily influenced by ancient cosmology, in particular the doctrine of the Great Year that places a strong emphasis on planetary conjunctions. This doctrine says that when all the planets were in conjunction that this cosmic event would mark the end of the world. Dionysius accurately calculated that this conjunction would occur in May AD 2000

Dionysius then applied another astronomical timing mechanism based on precession of the equinoxes. Though incorrect, some oriental astronomers at the time believed that the precessional cycle was 24,000 years which included twelve astrological ages of 2,000 years each. Dionysius believed that if the planetary alignment marked the end of an age (i.e. the Pisces age), then the birth of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of the Age of Pisces 2,000 years earlier. He therefore deducted 2,000 years from the May 2000 conjunction to produce AD 1 for the incarnation of Christ.

For us Christians the views of that 6th century Byzantine monk who was short in stature but mentally tall are of particular interest - birth of Christ, beginning of the Age of Pisces.

So now it is time to move on to the New Age when the vernal equinox point will no longer be facing Pisces, but moves into the constellation of Aquarius

As the few selected quotes above demonstrate the matter of the Age of Aquarius is a big subject indeed and lies in the heart of ancient and modern Astrology. Fundamental to these beliefs is the view that the fate of humanity is not random but follows patterns similar to the clockworks of heavenly bodies in some sort of universal unity of the Cosmos.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hawking and Mlodinow as Theologians

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

"We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful."

Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design. Bantam Books, 2010.

The two experts on Cosmology make profound theological statements apparently on the basis of their scientific study of God's creation. However, neither the view that Universe was born spontaneously nor the view that God is not needed for creation and that He probably does not even exist are not at all based on their deep scientific understanding of how the Universe works.

Leonard Mlodinow has affected Hawking's theological views towards atheism. I wonder to what extent the tragic murder of so many of Leonard Mlodinow's family in Auschwitz affects his lack of faith in God of Israel.  

Neither Hawking nor Mlodinow is qualified to answer the question they seek to understand as they have little or no understanding with the rest of the humanity what is human spirit.

God of Israel is spirit and beyond the intellectual reach of even the smartest among us. We only learn to know Him the way He has established for us to learn to know Him.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

SN 1006 Supernova Remnant

Remnant of the supernova seen in 1006 AD.

Another Astrotheology link to the overwhelmingly rich APOD site.

A spectacular photo combining X ray (blue), light (light blue) and radio wave image (red) of the remains of the famous supernova that was seen on planet Earth in 1006 AD.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rabbi Maimonides and the stars

As the fame of Rabbi Moshe Maimonides (1135-1204) spread among Sephardi Jews from Egypt all teh way to Spain in the west and to Yemen in the east he began to receive questions on Astrology. Rambam, as he is also known, rejected such questions and considered ridiculous the idea that planets and constellations could affect human destiny.

Maimonides was a highly intelligent man, somewhere there among other Jewish geniuses like Marx, Einstein and Freud, and as such a genuine rationalist and moralist. This fundamental approach to reality is seen in the way he handles the relationship between Torah and science of his time in The Guide to the Perplexed:: scientific proof, logic and evidence are decisive in correct Philosophy. He does not deny the significance of Divine Revelation so essential to Judaism but sees it as additional information that completes the picture.

Aristotelian geocentric universe
The second book of the Guide begins with the exposition of the physical structure of the universe, as seen by Maimonides. The world-view asserted in the work is essentially Aristotelian, with a spherical earth in the centre, surrounded by concentric Heavenly Spheres.

While Aristotle's view with respect to the eternity of the universe is rejected, Maimonides extensively borrows his proofs of the existence of God and his concepts such as the Prime Mover

Y. Tzvi Langerman writes about his views on astronomy among other things
Islamic milieu
Maimonides remained attached to the intellectual outlook of the western part of the Islamic world throughout his life, and this is especially true of his work in astronomy. In his youthful search for guidance, especially in matters of cosmography (which were later to be a major concern), he sought out the son of Jābir ibn Aflaḥ as well as some pupils of Ibn Bājja. Indeed, his career affords us one of the clearest examples of the distinctive features of the western Islamic astronomical tradition.
Maimonides contributed to the Arabic astronomical literature by editing (i. e., preparing corrected versions of texts that had become problematic) books written by two of his Andalusian predecessors, the above‐mentioned Jābir and Ibn Hūd, ruler of Seville.

Physical universe
Astronomical issues are stressed at several places in Maimonides' great work of religious thought, the Guide of the Perplexed. The most detailed discussion is found in Part Two, Chapter 24, which is devoted entirely to a review of the state of what may be anachronistically called cosmology or celestial physics.

Aristotelian physics had established by means of what were then taken to be irrefutable proofs that the motions of the heavenly bodies must be circular, with the Earth at the center. Ptolemy's models clearly violate these principles.

All of the solutions that had been offered to date were critically scrutinized and rejected; these included the proposals of Thābit ibn Qurra and Ibn Bājja, for which Maimonides remains our only source.

Visibility of lunar crescent and calendar
Maimonides' sole contribution to mathematical astronomy is his procedure for determining the visibility of the lunar crescent, which takes up several chapters of his great law code, the Mishneh Torah.

Before the calendar was fixed, Jewish law required that the beginning of each month be certified by the court at Jerusalem. No month can exceed 30 days. Hence, if the crescent is not seen on the eve of the 29th, the declaration of the new month is automatic.

Maimonides' procedure is necessary only for those instances where witnesses do report a sighting on the eve of the 29th. Specifically, the members of the court need to know whether a sighting is possible, so that they may convene in the expectation of witnesses; and they need a few details about the appearance of the crescent for purposes of cross‐examination. Conversely, the court needs to know when a sighting will be impossible, so as to be able to reject any purported sightings.

With these facts in mind, it will be readily understood why Maimonides presents his method in “cookbook” fashion. Solar and lunar parameters, listed by Maimonides, can be plugged in, and the computation is then carried out step‐by‐step. Eventually the result is a simple yes or no answer; if the answer is yes, some additional information about the appearance of the crescent can be obtained.

Theoretical explanations or justifications are kept to a bare minimum. Certain parameters, for example the geographical latitude, are built in, since the computation is meant to be true only for Jerusalem and its environs. Maimonides states that he has allowed himself some approximations, but, he assures us, the round‐off errors cancel each other out, so that there is no net effect on the computation.

Religion and science
Maimonides issued some critically important and repercussive statements on the relationship between Judaism and the sciences, astronomy in particular. He asserted that ancient Rabbinic views on the structure of the heavens have no privileged position. The tenets of astronomy can be proven or rejected by universal and invariant rules of logic; hence their source, or, as we might say, the cultural context out of which they emerge, is irrelevant.

On the other hand, astronomy is by no means a “secular” science. Knowledge of God, the attainment of which is a primary religious obligation, can be approximated – Maimonides denies that it can be fully achieved – only by inference from creation. The stars are the most noble bodies in creation, and the study of their motions is one of the most religiously fulfilling activities at our disposal.

Let me repeat something critically important in the paragraphs above describing the views of rabbi Moshe ben Maimon

Knowledge of God, the attainment of which is a primary religious obligation, can be approximated – Maimonides denies that it can be fully achieved – only by inference from creation. 

Similar understanding of learning to know God from two books, the Book of Nature and the Book of Grace, is deeply embedded in the theology of Thomas of Aquino who widely quotes Maimonides in his angelic writings.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brian Cox - Wonders of the Universe

Professor Brian Cox
image wikimedia
Wonders of the Universe is a 2011 television series produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and Science Channel, hosted by physicist Professor Brian Cox. Wonders of the Universe was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two from 6 March 2011. The series comprises four episodes, each of which focuses on an aspect of the universe and features a 'wonder' relevant to the theme. It follows on from Cox's 2010 series for the BBC, Wonders of the Solar System.

In one of the episodes of this wonderful documentary professor Cox tells how as a young man he was inspired by Carl Sagan's masterpiece Cosmos - Personal Voyage (1980) and how it affected his choice of profession. And indeed, Wonders of the Universe and the earlier Wonders of the Solar System are in a way scientific updates of Sagan's work introducing materials discovered since 1980. The globe jumping voyage from Arizona crater to Burkes shales and elsewhere is made possible by the legendary camera and editing skills of BBC, Discovery Channel and Science Channel combined and the result is truly spectacular!

The documentary is a summary aimed at general public of what is known in cosmic scale about the Universe and touches critical stages in the evolution of life on Earth. Constantly pleasantly smiling Cox obviously enjoys talking about these things and his clarity of thinking is admirable.

The narrative is strictly scientific and includes actually very little of Sagan's personal voyage style views on Philosophy and Theology. It is descriptive rather than interpretative and the amount of information provided in such an elegant manner is staggering.

Wonders of the Universe raises an important point concerning modern world view, Weltanschauung.
A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

The term is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung, composed of Welt ('world') and Anschauung ('view' or 'outlook') It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.

It has been said that for many Science has replaced Religion and that people like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox are the priests of modern age explaining to us the nature and meaning of reality on the basis of proven facts rather than metaphysical concepts and belief systems. In short, they represent scientific worldview that can be discussed factually as well by an Atheist as a person adhering to any religion.

But here is the catch: the spectacular documentary shows God's wonderful works of creation without mentioning Him. This leaves the story incomplete and one gets the feeling of professor Cox glossing over the crucial questions of understanding what he is talking about.

Take, for example, the wonderful Cambrian fossil fields in Burkes Shale on the mountains near Vancouver Canada. Evolutionary Big Bang, as Cox explains, perhaps caused by evolving life starting to see light. The complex eye of trilobites is something that biologists and paleontologists can study with all their tools and yet nobody really has the answer as to why anything evolves.

Scientific worldview alone is not satisfactory to the deepest yearnings of humans to understand the world they live in. This marvelous document is an outstanding proof of that and shows that man is more than some people like to think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book - Request for intercession

Wolf-Rayet Star 124
image NASA APOD Judy Schmidt
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:3
Following the example of many others I also am now writing a book that is based on several years of work with the magnificent tool called Blogger.

The subject is enormous, truly overwhelming and requires clear focus in order to help those perplexed by the rapid changes in our world view. The theme is full of traps both in avoiding factual errors and in providing interpretations as the writer is in many ways limited student of Astronomy and Cosmology with no training in higher mathematics, a humanist. The intended readership has, of course, deep concerns about dealing with science and religion in the same context and especially about bringing the Bible into discussions about most modern of sciences. These genuinely legitimate worries with many horrific examples of incorrect mixing of Grace and Nature must be wisely addressed before theological and philosophical discussions are even possible.

For this and many other reasons I deeply appreciate if you remember in your prayers also the book project Astrotheology so that the end result would be to the glory of the God of Israel, the Creator of earth and heavens, our very personal Heavenly Father, and not the opposite!

In the name of Christ we pray; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Mikko Louhivuori

Update 7.7. 2014

Thank you for your prayers! They are already bringing guidance and blessing to the project.
The planned book will be called God is One. Essays on Astrotheology.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Higgs boson and the stability of the Universe - ICHEP 2014

Graph BBC News - Science and Environment
BBC science editor Paul Rincon writes about the preparations currently going on in order to restart the Large Hadron Collider in Cern next year. He outlines one of the numerous questions that the about 10 billion euro instrument might provide answers to: how stable is the Universe? Will it exist to infinity or will it be destroyed some day?

The answer is depends on the measured mass of Higgs boson - the cause of gravity according to the Standard Model. The matter is discussed in the 37th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) held on July 2-9 2014 in Valencia, Spain.
At ICHEP, other scientists are expected to outline details of a refined mass for the fundamental particle, which has been measured at approximately 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV). For those outside the particle physics community, this might seem like a minor detail. But the mass of the Higgs is more than a mere number.

There's something very curious about its value that could have profound implications for the Universe. Mathematical models allow for the possibility that our cosmos is long-lived yet not entirely stable, and may - at some indeterminate point - be destroyed.

"The overall stability of the Universe depends on the Higgs mass - which is a bit funny," said Prof Jordan Nash, a particle physicist from Imperial College London, who works on the CMS experiment at Cern.

"There's a long theoretical argument which I won't go into, but that value is intriguing in that it sits on the edge between what we think is the long-term stability of the Universe and a Universe that has a finite lifetime."

To use an analogy, imagine the Higgs boson is an object resting at the bottom of a curved slope. If that resting place really is the lowest point on the slope, then the vacuum of space is completely stable - in other words, the Higgs is in the lowest energy state and can go no further.

However, if at some point further along this slope, there's another dip, the potential exists for the Universe to "topple" into this lower energy state, or minimum. If that happens, the vacuum of space collapses, dooming the cosmos.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN BBC News - Science and Environment July 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pope Saint John Paul II - Marcel Grossman Meeting on Relativistic Astrophysics

The stream lines on this simulation of a supernova show the flow of matter
behind the shock wave giving clues as to the origin of pulsars.
image and text wikimedia

Pope Saint John Paul II welcoming the distinguished participants to Marcel Grossman Meeting on Relativistic Astrophysics 21 June 1985. Here is part of the speech by His Holiness

1. We are living in a unique era. There was a time when scientific discoveries having an enormous impact on the development of human society and on the way we see ourselves only occurred every century or so. Now they are made on much shorter timescales: every year, every month, even every week. And, what is perhaps more significant, the impact on technology is almost immediate. In fact, within the last few decades we have witnessed more basic advances in our understanding of physical reality than had been made during the entire previous history of our planet. There is strong evidence that this exponential growth of ideas and scientific knowledge will continue.It is wonderful to see how much has been understood concerning the structure of stars -their birth, life and death, the origin and structure of galaxies, the formation of the elements and other building blocks of physical reality in the early universe, and the interlocking roles of fundamental interactions and processes, in the large and in the small.

These scientific achievements proclaim the dignity of the human being and greatly clarify man's unique role in the universe.

It should however be a matter of concern to us that, while science develops at ever-increasing speed. other fields of human endeavour remain relatively dormant or even regress. In the absence of a mature interaction between science and the practical and theoretical endeavours of politics, economics, art, philosophy, ethics and theology, the new vision and the new technological powers provided by science can lead to unprecedented human catastrophe. The current inadequacy of such responsible interaction on many levels represents a great "missed opportunity" for creating a new genuine "humanism of profound depth beauty, moral and spiritual nobility and personal sensitivity.

2. lnterestingly enough, the glaring divergence between the pace of development` in science and that of other critical areas of human endeavour, especially politics, is reflected in the personal tragedies of certain scientists in the service of humanity and of their own nations. Some have been and are giants, not only in their particular areas of scientific activity, but also in their unwavering personal commitment to moral and personal values, and to the growth of these values within human society on both the national and the international levels.

The personal misfortunes of these dedicated men and women bear witness to a much larger tragedy experienced by a silent and power less society. Nonscientists can often suffer even greater incursion upon their personal freedom and human rights, but have fewer means of making them known. Basic human rights are not respected in some scientifically and technologically advanced societies. The moral voice and the personal and spiritual sensitivities of scientists and non-scientists alike are at times unheard or simply ignored by those who exercise power.

3. Science, however important. cannot be a substitute for other human activities. Above all it can not substitute for faith, moral values, art or political science. The contribution that science can make, through its dynamism and its constant reaching out towards truth, is to give inspiration and a richer physical context or vision to other human activities. It can share with them the results it has derived from its continuing investigations of the universal laws of nature. Science can finally lead humanity to bow before the Creator of the universe, who, from the Christian viewpoint. is revealed as the Redeemer of man.

Today we see here in this programme two examples of a symbiotic relationship, in this case between science and art. The mathematical solutions of the Einstein field equations of general relativity describing the orbits of particles around a gravitationally collapsed object have inspired a sculptor to create an artistic object,while the electromagnetic signals of a pulsar, the compact remnant of a supernova explosion thousands of years ago, have provided the inspiration for a composition of classical music.

4. Apart from your scientific work, what is most significant about this gathering is that scientists representing more than thirty nationalities are here working and discussing together, addressing in fraternal solidarity some of the most challenging and basic questions ever put to the human mind.

Read the entire speech in L'Osservatore Romano, July 15 1985
The Catholics Students at Caltech link.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mind blowing image of Orion nebula

Image Credit: R. Villaverde, Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA
Just another spectacular astrophoto?

Words are not enough anymore!

BOSS - new information about the expansion of universe

BOSS data is acquired by the 2.5m Sloan telescope at Apache Point Observatory
image BBC

Another Space Theology bookmark Jonathan Amos excellent news article in BBC Science 8.4.2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Orion Nebula - Rare image

Dust around Orion Nebula
image Robert Fields NASA APOD

Another Space Theology bookmark - Orion Nebula in surrounding dust

APOD spoils the world with continuous stream of truly spectacular images of the cosmos and Earth's atmosphere.

Robert Field's photo of Orion Nebula is rare - at least I have not seen before those gray dust filaments so clearly visible or the entire area exposed in such highly informative colors.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lemaître principle on religion and science

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)
image wikimedia
The eminent Belgian Catholic priest Monseigneur Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (1894-1966) is the Father of the Big Bang Theory. Today it is generally recognized that was the first to present the theory of a Primordial Atom in 1931. Cumulative evidence from various branches of physical cosmology had consequently strengthened the idea that the entire universe has a definite beginning rather than being static and eternal.

In early 1950'ies Lemaître was at the height of his fame and celebrated as one of the top cosmologists of all times. Not only had the scientific community adopted the Big Bang theory, as mockingly named by Sir Fred Hoyle, but King Leopold III of Belgium had bestowed on him the highest scientific honors his country could give. He was honorary member of a number of international academic societies and associations. Even more than that, the Vatican had invited the Belgian priest to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and eventually he became its director.

Dedicated to the search for truth
Lemaître and Einstein in 1933
image Catholic Education Resource Center
Georges Lemaître is an exceptional character who was consumed by intensive search for truth. As a highly gifted student he had many opportunities to join the leading universities in United Kingdom or United States for glorious career as researcher and teacher from Cambridge to Harvard and MIT. Instead, he faithfully took care of his responsibilities as a lecturer and then as a professor in the Catholic University of Louvain.

No less adversary than Albert Einstein himself attacked Lemaître's views on expanding universe saying

Vos calculs sont corrects, mais votre physique est abominable

The father of General Theory of Relativity upon which Lemaître's calculations were founded opposed him! I say, a number of prelates and lesser physicians would have returned home to check the facts once more. Not so Lemaître and the battle of the Titans ended in 1933 when they traveled together to California to a set of seminars. On the way the two had a chance to chat and it is told that after Lemaître's lecture Albert Einstein stood up applauding

This is the most beautiful and satisfying explanation of creation I have ever heard! 

That is quite a compliment as we know how important the beauty of a theory was to Einstein.

Pope Pius XII
Vatican was clearly pleased and wanted also to contribute to the success of Father Georges Lemaître. In 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that Lemaître's theory had scientifically proved Creation and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

What a startling statement! That would put most of the Catholic priests, bishops and even cardinals on knees praising God and the Church - what a vindication!

Not so Georges Lemaître who was very close to the Vatican as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science.

Lemaître immediately send a message through his friend Daniel O'Connell, Pope's scientific advisor, begging the Pope not to repeat that statement and asked His Holiness not to comment at all on cosmology. 


A devote Catholic priest, a scholar in search of the truth, opposed the Holy See and dared to ask the Pope not to talk about cosmology at all.

And what is quite remarkable, Pope Pius XII humbly took the advice of his dear priest scientist.  

Lemaître principle on religion and science
We can use the above history to formulate a fundamental hermeneutical rule about making science and studying the theological significance of scientific research

Do not mix science with religion.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Faster than a speeding bullet!

Fast flying pulsar
image Chandra X-ray Observatory, APOD

Another highly educational image and text from Astronomy Picture of the Day! See the glorious picture in full size and read the associated text here.

The fast rotating neutron star was born in the explosion of the supernova up left in the picture. The "bullet" has created the Lighthouse Nebula tail pointing towards the supernova "gun" and also the peculiar 37 light years long particle jet to the right from it.

The pulsar has an estimated speed of 1000 kilometers per second 1000 km/s.

As fast as a flying bullet?
.221 Fireball cartridge
image wikimedia

According to David E. Petzal (1992) speeds of bullets vary

.22 rimfire cartridge1200–1500 fps
.22 centerfire cartridge2400–3000 fps
.22 Swift4000 fps
.38 Special600 fps
.221 Fireball2650 fps

The speeds of these bullets range from 180 to 1220 meters per second 1220 m/s.

Accordingly, the pulsar IGR J1104-6103 is flying through the space about thousand times faster than a bullet shot from a pistol using a Remington .221 caliber Fireball cartridge.